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Missouri fades in 41-20 loss to No. 7

Associated Press Published: September 9, 2012
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COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A fake punt on fourth-and-11 that mustered just 3 yards summed up coach Gary Pinkel's frustrations about a much-anticipated day gone sour for Missouri.

His tolerance level for second-guessing was zero.

"I've been doing this for a long time," Pinkel said after the Tigers surrendered 24 straight points to finish a 41-20 loss to No. 7 Georgia on Saturday night, spoiling the Tigers' SEC debut and sent a sellout crowd home unsatisfied. "A coach never calls something that he thinks will not work, OK?

"When they work, they're good calls and when they don't work they're bad calls. And I'll take responsibility for that."

Although Georgia coach Mark Richt noted the final score didn't reflect the level of competition, not much went the Tigers' way in the second half of the SEC opener.

But the players weren't overly discouraged.

"I think we measured up," said wide receiver Marcus Lucas, who caught a 41-yard touchdown pass. "We were there in the third quarter.

"They were the best in the East last year, I don't know if we convinced them or not. I think we can still be contenders in the SEC East."

The depth chart took a hit.

Offensive tackle Elvis Fisher was sidelined in the first half by a right knee injury. Ball-hawking linebacker Zaviar Gooden missed most of the second half with a hamstring injury.

Fisher, granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA after a left knee injury sidelined him all last season, could miss a month with "MCL concerns" to his right knee.

"It's not very good," Pinkel said. "That's where we're at right now. We don't have any excuses.'

Aaron Murray hit Marlon Brown for two of his three touchdown passes, the second for the go-ahead score as Georgia recovered from a shaky start.

The Bulldogs (2-0, 1-0) trailed 17-9 early in the third quarter and 20-17 late in the third before turning Missouri's SEC debut into an unsatisfying initiation.

Up by 21 points with the clock winding down, Georgia's fan contingent, mostly concentrated in one corner of the end zone, chanted "Old Man Football!, Old Man Football!" That was in reference to comments by excitable Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who said he turned off the TV last week during Georgia's opening victory over Buffalo because he was unimpressed with the Bulldogs' no-frills style of play.

Richardson did not meet with reporters after the game. He was held out of media day last Monday.

Brown had eight catches for 106 yards with an 11-yard score that put Georgia ahead for good at 24-20 late in the third quarter. Two big plays by linebacker Jarvis Jones helped put it away.

Jones returned an interception to the 1 midway through the fourth quarter to set up a score by Todd Gurley, then just three plays later he forced a fumble on a sack that gave Georgia possession at the 5 and set up a 6-yard scoring run by Ken Malcome.

Georgia outscored Missouri 32-10 in the second half, making a statement to three defensive starters left behind due to suspensions that there's plenty of depth.

Missouri got two touchdown passes from James Franklin but had little success with the run while falling short of lofty expectations. Pinkel predicted on media day that it would be a game that "will go down in history."

Missouri peaked on a 69-yard touchdown pass from Franklin to L'Damian Washington that made it 17-9 early in the third quarter.

The schools were a combined 1 for 7 on third-down conversions with five first downs and three punts apiece in a sloppy, scoreless first quarter. Each opened three-and-out, Missouri with minus-22 yards and Georgia with minus-12.

Center Mitch Morse was behind Missouri's shaky start with two high snaps dooming the opening series. The second was looped far above Franklin's head for a 24-yard loss back to the 4 leading to a punt.

The Tigers and Bulldogs each had one big gainer in the second quarter, with Franklin hitting Marcus Lucas for a 41-yard touchdown and 34-yarder from Murray to Tavarres King on a screen to the 2 that set up a 2-yard scoring pass from Murray to Marlon Brown with 30 seconds to go in the half.

But Georgia missed a shot to tie it when freshman Marshall Morgan, who hit a 52-yard field goal earlier in the second quarter, was wide right on the extra point.